Review: Robots brought to life in sci-fi drama 'R.U.R.' at SCPA

Progress leads everyone and everything forward, right? But what about when plans stray from the path and robots start to act on their own free will? The School for Creative and Performing Arts’ Drama Ensemble’s rendition of the 1920s sci-fi play, “R.U.R.” (“Rossum’s Universal Robots”) answers this question.

Interestingly, this play is actually the reason the English language has the word “robot.” Originally written in the Czech language, this play has now been translated into over thirty languages. Split into three acts and an epilogue, the play begins with Helena Glory arriving at an island factory where robots are made. Her purpose is to undermine the management and free these automated servants. But Harry Domin, current general manager and her future husband, persuades her otherwise. Ten years pass and the group of lovable but dorky doctors, Domin and Helena all still inhabit the island factory. Yet production is longer keeping to the schedule as robots are revolting all around the world and human babies are no longer being born.

The show was performed in a black box theater, and the actors and actresses were so close to the audience that they didn’t need microphones. When Helena addressed an envelope, one could hear the pen write on the paper. Olaf Eide was a standout actor in his role of Harry Domin; with incredible memory of numerous monologues, he was in complete control of the stage. His portrayal of emotion was well rehearsed, moving and believable. With feminine grace and poise, Drue Larkin portrayed Helena Glory flawlessly. Along with the rest of the small cast, Larkin never broke character, despite being in such a tight perimeter with the audience.

While all five doctors were intriguing in their own ways, Mallory Kraus’ performance of Fabry was one of the most compelling. Kraus portrayed a male engineer and her consistently jumpy character was not only interesting but also of great depth. Alquist, who is one of the doctors even though he claims to only be a builder, was performed by Cameron Baker. Baker’s character was the last human on Earth after the robot revolution and his performance in the epilogue of such a lonely, repressed soul was remarkable. The leader of the robot revolution, Radius (Caleb Leonard), was depicted with strength and notable character development. One of the audience’s favorite, Primus, a robot who falls in love, was played outstandingly by Jeremias Santarelli, who had a natural stage presence and an exceptional portrayal as a robot.

Scene changes were performed in a blue glow by the robots of the island, who stayed in character and made the duration enjoyable with their automated movements. The set was simple but was parallel to the estimated era of setting. The lighting accompanied the mood of each scene perfectly and the sound team did a job well done; kudos to stage manager Maggie Hoffecker, for keeping everything in check.

While progressive thinking doesn’t always lead one to where they originally wanted to go, the problems that came along the way did end up resolving themselves. The Drama Ensemble at School for Creative and Performing Arts’ production of “R.U.R.” hit home as an absolute crowd favorite and left the audience with the understanding that a little hope can go a long way.

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